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Home Balance

Hillerbrand+Magsamen

ABOUT THE PROJECT

COUNTERCURRENT COMMISSION

Tue, April 12, 2016 from 7pm-10pm
Location: MATCH – BOX 3, 3400 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002

Thu, April 14, 2016 from 7pm-9pm
Location: MATCH –BOX 1, 3400 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002

Fri, April 15, 2016 from 8:30pm-10pm
Location: Houston Center for Photography, 1441 W. Alabama Street, Houston, TX 77006

UPDATE: Cancelled Due to Weather
Sat, April 16, 2016 from 8:30pm-10pm

Location: Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002

During the festival, Home Balance will be traveling throughout the city starting at the MATCH on opening night. —please check back for the most up-to-date locations and times.

“We’ve been always thinking about how we can get the viewer inside our home. How can we get them to see our house? What kind of project can we do where the viewer participates in our home?”

Hillerbrand+Magsamen

A children’s bouncy house is morphed into a contemporary art project about balance.

A large inflatable bouncy house—like the one popping up on your neighbor’s lawn heralding the arrival of a child’s noisy birthday party—is custom built with walls that become glowing film screens. A camera captures the actions of participants bouncing inside the house, projecting live images on one side of the house. The rest of the walls are illuminated by videos of the artists’ (a wife-and-husband team) family inside their own home: the artists and their children jumping up and down, breaking things, hitting their heads against the ceiling, knocking over furniture, falling, creating complete havoc.

As the private space of the family home is made public for everyone to see, visitors can enter and bounce in the midst of the images. In a bouncy house the goal is to maintain stability in an environment not designed for stability, while our real homes are designed for a stability that our home-life can never attain. Home Balance questions what constitutes a home, and draws on childhood games to explore how family interactions challenge the desire to maintain orderly control of the structures in which we dwell.

Hillerbrand+Magsamen are the photographers and the photographed; their home is their canvas, their family is their subject, and their actions become their content. Home, family, belongings—nothing is left un-deconstructed in their art—often quite literally, as sofas, bedroom walls, and dinnerware come under physical attack. With humor, performance, video and everyday objects, Hillerbrand+Magsamen expand their family life into a contemporary art conversation about family dynamics, suburban life and American consumer excess.

“While it could be construed as being critical of big-box America, it is more about asking questions than it is about pointing fingers. The photos and videos are imbued with an unintentional kind of humor—dark, like a New Yorker cartoon brought to life.” – Kerri MacDonald, The New York Times

ARTIST WORDS

Interview with Hillerbrand+Magsamen
November 2015

Mitchell Center: Where did the idea for Home Balance come from?

Hillerbrand+Magsamen: We work with our two children and our home as our art practice. We do everything from chop holes in our walls to taking apart our house and constructing a spaceship in our backyard. What we always hear from everyone who sees our work either at a festival or at a gallery opening is, “Do you own your house” or “Did you really do that? Did you repair the damage?” So we’ve always been thinking about how we can get the viewer inside of our home. How can we get them to see our house? What kind of project can we do where the viewer participates in our home?

We thought it would be interesting to take the bouncy house, a quintessential kids’ party piece, and bring it into the contemporary art world. We enjoy walking a thin line between the everyday kitsch of our lives and the serious art world so that we can call into question our place in the world. The art world is always so serious—we like to bring in some humor and fun, while still addressing relevant concepts.

Mitchell Center: How has the project evolved?

Hillerbrand+Magsamen: What has really surprised us about the process is the way that we’ve been thinking about it. We knew in the back of our heads that this idea of an inflatable house could be portable and presented anywhere, but the more we talked about it, the more we got excited and realized the possibilities of where this project can be seen, the communities it can interact with, the people that it can reach and the interaction that they can have with it. We could potentially have this artwork appear in a different space every night.

Mitchell Center: Have you done anything before with the audience so emerged into the art?

Hillerbrand+Magsamen: We did a project with FuseBox in Austin a few years back that involved one audience member at a time doing a type of séance, but it was a much smaller in scope. Home Balance is bigger, more complicated, and really dependent upon audience participation. Our hope is that the audience will respond to the playfulness but also consider how they balance and communicate in their own homes. We are so grateful to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts for this opportunity. It really shows both their confidence in the project and their forward thinking as a festival to allow artists to take risks, move out of their comfort zone and try new things. This is what art making is all about.

Mitchell Center: What’s the imagery you intend to capture from your home and project upon the house?

Hillerbrand+Magsamen: The imagery that we are going to project onto the side of the bouncy house came to us very quickly. We even had this idea in our heads before the bouncy house idea came to us. We want the imagery to have a surreal feel to it, as much of our previous work does. We will be shooting it inside our home and then projecting that footage onto the sides of the bouncy house, which should create a very immersive feeling. For a long time, we had this strange visual image of the huge trampolines inside of our house and our family bouncing on them. A trampoline is so large that it would take up the entire space of a room. All four of us jumping up and down, breaking things, hitting our head against the ceiling, breaking furniture, falling off and creating complete havoc sounded like just the right thing to do!

Mitchell Center: What spurred this idea?

Hillerbrand+Magsamen: It is the complete opposite of the order that you’re supposed to have in a home. It was a very strong visual metaphor for the order that people either try to maintain within their homes or present to the public. It was this opposite that attracted us to the visual image. People try so hard to maintain control of their “homes.” This control is seen in such a high degree in things like how we as a culture present our homes as manifestations of our identity. If my lawn is kept up, my house is remodeled, if I have the high-end furniture from the New York catalog showroom, all of this shows that I am doing things the right way and I’m in control.

Mitchell Center: As you grow older and your children grow older, how has this affected your art?

Hillerbrand+Magsamen: This has been very much in our minds lately. We’ve been working with our children for nine years in our creative practice. Our daughter Madeleine is now twelve years old and our son Emmett is nine years old. We’ve noticed a very interesting and strange change that has happened with working with our children. When we first started, this idea of incorporating our home life and our children into our creative practice was new to both us and the children. So every new piece that we made had a sense of unexplored territory. We didn’t know how the children would react. Would they think that this was play or work? Were they going to be interested in doing it? Or what they find it boring and not interesting?

What we’ve noticed now with them, is that they think this idea of building spaceships in backyards, cutting up sofas to make loveseats, chopping holes in our walls to tunnel through our house, is all very normal. From our last project Higher Ground we created a two-and-a-half story spaceship in our backyard. After the project was finished we kept the spaceship and thought that would be the coolest thing in the neighborhood: everybody would want to come to our house and play with it. But our children think the exact opposite. They want to go to other people’s “normal” houses to play. We’ve always said that our practice is based on the idea that we are trying to make the ordinary extraordinary. But now we are a little worried that our children think the extraordinary is ordinary.

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